Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

by Keith Richards & James Fox

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Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:29 pm

Pg. 70-71 "I've learned everything I know off of records. Being able to replay something immediately without all that terrible stricture of written music, the prison of those bars, those five lines. Being able to hear recorded music freed up loads of musicians that couldn't necessarily afford to learn to read or write music, like me.

Before 1900, you've got Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, the cancan. With recording, it was emancipation for the people. As long as you or somebody around you could afford a machine, suddenly you could hear music made by people, not set-up rigs and symphony orchestras. You could actually listen to what people were saying, almost off the cuff. Some of it can be a load of rubbish, but some of it was really good. It was the emancipation of music. Otherwise you'd have had to go to a concert hall, and how many people could afford that? It surely can't be any coincidence that jazz and blues started to take over the world the minute recordings started, within a few years, just like that. The blues is universal, which is why it's still around. Just the expression and the feel of it came in because of recording. It was like opening the audio curtains. And available, and cheap. It's not just locked into one community here and one community there and the twain shall never meet. And of course that breeds a totally different kind of musician, in a generation. I don't need this paper. I'm going to play it straight from the ear, straight from here, straight from the heart of the fingers. Nobody has to turn the pages."


What do you think of Keith's thoughts here?
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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:35 pm

I think he is right in some respects certainly about recordings allowing more people to hear music. But I also think that not everyone can learn their music like he did I think alot of people have to learn music by reading it I think it takes a certain talent to be able to work out from recordings what or how something is played. It even took him a while to find out that he needed to play things differently to get the right sound. But as I say I think he and other musicians that learn that way are exceptional people.

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:46 pm

Like GG said, not everyone can play by ear. I think it is wrong to dismiss all the classical music or other music that is written on paper. My mother played piano , and she had boxes and boxes of sheet music and music magazines that gave her the ability to play all sorts of music, including popular tunes. This was primarily for her own pleasure. I would certainly not dismiss that sort of music as unimportant or somehow inferior or say that she didn't play from the heart because she used written music when she played.

Music seems to be universal, even very primitive civilizations use drums and vocal music, but the music itself may be unique. Music can be ethnic, contained within cultures or geographies. I think it would be sad to homogenize all that music. Sometimes the twain meeting isn't a good thing. That diversity creates its own beauty.

I think what he is saying may be true for himself and the way he plays. But he is just one guy with his own opinion.

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Dec 03, 2011 5:40 pm

nebraska wrote:Like GG said, not everyone can play by ear. I think it is wrong to dismiss all the classical music or other music that is written on paper. My mother played piano , and she had boxes and boxes of sheet music and music magazines that gave her the ability to play all sorts of music, including popular tunes. This was primarily for her own pleasure. I would certainly not dismiss that sort of music as unimportant or somehow inferior or say that she didn't play from the heart because she used written music when she played.

Music seems to be universal, even very primitive civilizations use drums and vocal music, but the music itself may be unique. Music can be ethnic, contained within cultures or geographies. I think it would be sad to homogenize all that music. Sometimes the twain meeting isn't a good thing. That diversity creates its own beauty.

I think what he is saying may be true for himself and the way he plays. But he is just one guy with his own opinion.

I don't see where he is dismissing classical music after all he is quite a fan of Mozart. He is just saying that having recordings opened up alot more posabilities to people to hear music to enjoy it to learn from it .

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:02 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:I don't see where he is dismissing classical music after all he is quite a fan of Mozart. He is just saying that having recordings opened up alot more posabilities to people to hear music to enjoy it to learn from it .

The last paragraph seemed to imply that there was something "less than" about turning a paper sheet of music when you could play so much more heartfeltly without it. Maybe it is just the way it happened to strike me today.

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Dec 03, 2011 9:29 pm

My take on it was music that could be heard by a mass audience was limited to the concert hall which was not necessarily avaiable to the masses. Music has been a part of every culture we know of, but available only to that culture or maybe later to a conquering population through assimilation. Without recordings, the music of the American blues may never have been known in England. Recordings created a freedom and availablity of different types of music to a wider audience without the formality of a musical education. There are certainly musical geniuses in any genre that can and should be appreciated. I think to be able to play by ear you have to possess an innate ability.
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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Theresa » Sat Dec 03, 2011 9:54 pm

Being a musician who needs to have written music in order to play the piano, I wasn't too enamored of Keith's words when I first read them. It seemed to me he was rather dismissive of anyone using written music....that it was constricting. I suppose that it would be, to someone who didn't read music. Of course, I can take a piece of written music that I've never heard played, and play it. So in my case, written music can be as freeing as listening to a recording.

I agree with DITHOT in that recordings made music multi-cultural...that it helped spread it across the oceans and made it available to more people.

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Buster » Sat Dec 03, 2011 10:42 pm

My response to all of this keeps changing as I read all your thoughts. First off, I think Keith is absolutely right when he says that recorded music opened new sounds up to a lot of people who wouldn't have been able to hear them otherwise. Overall, it seems to be a good thing, though some ethnomusicologists would argue that the end result is a homogenization of indigenous music - that all of the "sharing" actually results in the loss of some unique local musical styles. If we're all listening to the blues, then everything ends up with a blues influence. I'm not so sure I believe that - it seems equally possible that the result would be a fusion of styles, resulting in something altogether original.
That said, I'm not so sure about written music being a prison. I had an extremely interesting conversation about this very topic with a professional tuba player who is renowned for his sight-reading ability- many symphonies, studios and pit orchestras in NYC call him in when they need someone who can nail the part without rehearsal. What he said is that being able to read is only a small part of making music. He can play all of the notes and rhythms exactly as they are scored, but it doesn't become music until it has some meaning behind it. When he performs with a group, he says he needs to rehearse, not to get the technical parts right ("that's the easy part"), but to hear how the other musicians are interpreting the music. My understanding is that he sees the written part as a guide, and that what he plays is exactly what Keith is talking about :
suddenly you could hear music made by people, not set-up rigs and symphony orchestras. You could actually listen to what people were saying, almost off the cuff.

Written music is like the code - more like guidelines... ;-)

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby fansmom » Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:42 pm

What would you think of someone who said they loved to read if you then learned that they only listened to audiobooks?

I have met Grammy award-winning singers who are contemptuous of "paper musicians," and have said music can't be learned from paper.

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:28 am

Buster wrote:My response to all of this keeps changing as I read all your thoughts. First off, I think Keith is absolutely right when he says that recorded music opened new sounds up to a lot of people who wouldn't have been able to hear them otherwise. Overall, it seems to be a good thing, though some ethnomusicologists would argue that the end result is a homogenization of indigenous music - that all of the "sharing" actually results in the loss of some unique local musical styles. If we're all listening to the blues, then everything ends up with a blues influence. I'm not so sure I believe that - it seems equally possible that the result would be a fusion of styles, resulting in something altogether original.
That said, I'm not so sure about written music being a prison. I had an extremely interesting conversation about this very topic with a professional tuba player who is renowned for his sight-reading ability- many symphonies, studios and pit orchestras in NYC call him in when they need someone who can nail the part without rehearsal. What he said is that being able to read is only a small part of making music. He can play all of the notes and rhythms exactly as they are scored, but it doesn't become music until it has some meaning behind it. When he performs with a group, he says he needs to rehearse, not to get the technical parts right ("that's the easy part"), but to hear how the other musicians are interpreting the music. My understanding is that he sees the written part as a guide, and that what he plays is exactly what Keith is talking about :
suddenly you could hear music made by people, not set-up rigs and symphony orchestras. You could actually listen to what people were saying, almost off the cuff.

Written music is like the code - more like guidelines... ;-)

I think you probably have it. I'm sure Keith actually says somewhere that he tried to learn to read music or learnt some basics but it didn't work for him.

Theresa I am envious of your ability to be able to read music like that and to be able to play anyway :ok:

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby stroch » Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:48 am

Music is like any other art form -- technical perfection isn't as important as the message conveyed. Keith is right in that recordings opened up the whole world to new sounds, and that was a great gift of knowledge, just as the development photography and the internet were. As Buster said, it has it's downside with the homogenization of culture, which we see first hand every day.

Keith is wrong about the concert halls being the main venue for music, though. Music was always performed in homes and small public places that anyone could go to; it wasn't something just for the elite -- folk music came from the folks, and chamber music was played in chambers.
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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:27 am

stroch wrote:Music is like any other art form -- technical perfection isn't as important as the message conveyed. Keith is right in that recordings opened up the whole world to new sounds, and that was a great gift of knowledge, just as the development photography and the internet were. As Buster said, it has it's downside with the homogenization of culture, which we see first hand every day.

Keith is wrong about the concert halls being the main venue for music, though. Music was always performed in homes and small public places that anyone could go to; it wasn't something just for the elite -- folk music came from the folks, and chamber music was played in chambers.

I think he mean the type of music played in concert halls was now available to all through records.

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:04 pm

Wow! Interesting to read all of your thoughts here.

I think when he says that they could only listen in the concert halls, he is speaking in generalities for his neck of the woods – that he is really talking more about music having been locked into communities, and not shared with the rest of the world, prior to the advent of recording. And he’s probably thinking about how he never would have known about the blues if there had not been recordings.

I don’t think that he is being dismissive of written music. I think he is just saying that recordings expanded the possibilities for those that did not read music, but played by ear – and that it spawned creativity.

I have always wondered about something, and I’m hoping one of you musically knowledgeable Noodlemantras will be able to answer this question:

How does a band put together all of its music without writing it down? I can see maybe one artist being able to play extemporaneously, but not a band…..esp. if it is a song that becomes famous and you have to play it over and over again for audiences.
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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:13 pm

Liz wrote:Wow! Interesting to read all of your thoughts here.

I think when he says that they could only listen in the concert halls, he is speaking in generalities for his neck of the woods – that he is really talking more about music having been locked into communities, and not shared with the rest of the world, prior to the advent of recording. And he’s probably thinking about how he never would have known about the blues if there had not been recordings.

I don’t think that he is being dismissive of written music. I think he is just saying that recordings expanded the possibilities for those that did not read music, but played by ear – and that it spawned creativity.

I have always wondered about something, and I’m hoping one of you musically knowledgeable Noodlemantras will be able to answer this question:

How does a band put together all of its music without writing it down? I can see maybe one artist being able to play extemporaneously, but not a band…..esp. if it is a song that becomes famous and you have to play it over and over again for audiences.

I think they have it written down eventually but not in the traditional way, they write down the chords etc. I know that when the Stones get together to reherse that there are some enormouse volumes that Chuck Lavell ( the keyboardist) has with all the songs and music in it. But I agree its aquite mysterious and fascinating too.
I think bands just have the ability to improvise until they come up with something. I did watch a programme some weks agao about how songs are written and it is fascinating.

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Re: Life Question #18 ~ The Emancipation of Music

Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:39 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:I think they have it written down eventually but not in the traditional way, they write down the chords etc. I know that when the Stones get together to reherse that there are some enormouse volumes that Chuck Lavell ( the keyboardist) has with all the songs and music in it. But I agree its aquite mysterious and fascinating too.
I think bands just have the ability to improvise until they come up with something. I did watch a programme some weks agao about how songs are written and it is fascinating.

Do you know what that program was? I'd like to watch it, if we have it over here.
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